This time last week, we were on vacation.
On Sunday, we returned from a trip to the beach, and it was mostly magical. We went to a favorite summer spot of my husband’s family in Cape Cod, where we had stayed once before. Our last trip (and my first time in Chatham) was a family affair when our oldest was 15 months old. From the beginning of that last trip, I was crabby because everyone in the group including my California-born sister-in-law and my four-year-old nephew had been to the Cape before, and all they could do was rehash memories of trips past. I felt like I was crashing someone else’s vacation, but it was mostly all in my head. The trip came a few years after my mother had died, and I was with my entire married family, feeling jealous at the assembly of people. I eventually relaxed, came to love their shared family memories, and carved a few of my own spaces in their beloved Cape village.
This time, the trip was on our own terms. When we were close to our departure, my husband said, “I’ve never been there without my parents so it’s really us navigating things.”
I was thrilled.
We are at our best when we’re in things together. I am notoriously terrible at trip planning because I find it difficult to understand the landscape of a place sight unseen. Having been to Chatham once before, I had a hazy memory of where things were and that meant I could focus on doing and going rather than being lost half the time. This was my kind of trip–not overscheduled or mapped out. Just us, the beach and loads of ice cream.
Our vacation was breathtaking at times. I wrote blog post after blog post in my head where I rarely store my words because like the sand on the shore, the tide took them away. I took almost 300 pictures of my kids and my husband (and even appeared in some myself). I took even more pictures in my mind: my little daughter riding on my husband’s shoulders in the middle of the ocean with the blue sky and clouds behind them. My girls coloring in their pajamas on the little coffee table in our very cozy (read tight) cottage for the week. The crumpled face of my three-year-old daughter when she spilled an entire ice cream cone in her shoe. The Cape Cod National Seashore at the end of a brief bike ride through the woods, listening to my little one squeal, “I love the downhills.” Their delight at the “mermaid store” on Chatham’s main drag full of girly treasures.
It was ice cream and sand sculptures, walks on the beach, bike rides and the Friday night band concert, hot dogs and Cape Cod baseball games, and it was really, really nice.
We discovered that upon our return, the kids have slept better in their own little beds than they did on vacation. On vacation, they were up at 6:45am ready to take on the day, unwilling to miss a minute of excitement. On vacation, they learned to entertain themselves together, a unexpected by-product that warmed our hearts. But back home, they’re sleeping in a little more and clinging a little more. My husband and I aren’t complaining about the extra sleep in the morning, but we can hardly bring ourselves to get out of bed, too. A few days back from a lovely week off and we’re all slogging through the days.
It was certainly not all sunshine and rainbows, either. There were some entirely real moments where I remember dragging my sandy, sweaty children screaming into an outdoor shower or dead lifting them off the ground mid-tantrum, but I can hardly blame them. A child on vacation is in real heaven: they were overexposed to the sun, up past their bedtime and pumped full of hot dogs, pasta, and ice cream.
I did discover a few new parenting practices that I want to remember:
- No matter how much they protest, make sure you take your children to the restroom before you leave your house.
- Picnic tables are not an appropriate seating option for a three-year-old. They need more supervision than you think.
- You can triple up on the sunscreen lotion and still get a sunburn.
- Your husband with minimal coaxing will grow a goatee….and it will be awesome!
- Your husband will for once be right about storing the bread in the fridge to avoid soggy sandwiches on the beach–who knew beach air was so wet?
- It is okay to disconnect, to not answer text messages and to get off of social media. You won’t miss it and you’ll feel like you really got away.
- Make time for at least one thing for yourself–for me it was beach yoga.
And so I don’t forget our favorite Chatham spots, I’ve made a little map to remember them.
And now, back to reality….